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Romance Fiction African American

Sage set a reminder on her phone. Time to sort through the bins her parents dropped off months ago to inaugurate her house. No more excuses. Thank goodness the forecast predicted precipitation on Saturday.

Rain and wind pelted the garage door. Sage pulled up her hoodie and slipped on gloves. The first bin she opened contained a mishmash of items. Folders with graded reports, another jammed with certificates, from elementary through high school, academic trophies, graphic tee shirts, and a couple of Barbie dolls.

She lifted the lid on the next one and squealed. Her once treasured paperbacks. Friends nicknamed her Book. Which she thought endearing.

She replaced some of her favorites like Ben-Hur and Great Expectations with hardcovers. Sage removed each novel, remembering her trip to the bookstore to purchase or the occasion she received it as a gift until a thin black hardcover appeared, sandwiched between Les Misérables and Beloved. The front blank, but the spine had a title. A red stamp from the regional library on the inside. She shut it, plopped on the steps, whirling the book of poetry, a genre she would not choose.

Did I forget to return it?

She read the first poem. An expression of love. 

What am I doing with a work of romantic poetry?

Laying it aside, she cleared out the last bin. Frequently glancing at the book, but no recollection of when, why or how she possessed it, troubled her.

Sage organized the things she planned to keep and placed them back into the bins and dumped those she didn't in a large trash bag.

At the kitchen counter, she thumbed through the poems and clutched a mug of hot chocolate. To remember, Sage closed her eyes and tried to clear her mind. Nothing.

She did laundry, dusted and vacuumed. Still no memory.

For lunch she warmed soup and grilled a cheese sandwich. Turned on the gas fireplace and curled up on her chaise. After waking from a nap, she browsed again. Nothing came to her. Her friend Delta might know.

"Hey girl, what's up?"

"I need your elephant brain." Sage said.

"You finally opened Pandora's boxes?"

"I found a library book."

"And that's odd?"

"It's a book of poetry."

"Okay, that is odd."

"I've racked my brain all morning wondering where it came from. Do you remember anything?"

"Let me think." Delta ticked and hummed. "My first thought, Manny."

"Manny? You talking about Emmanuel Figaro!?"

"Yeah. He had a crush on you."

"Stop playing."

"You didn't know?"

Sage went through her school years without one boy being interested in her. It didn't bother her much, her friends dated. Love of reading kept her occupied. Also, they occasionally hung out as a group. Quiet Manny usually accompanied them to the bowling alley or roller-skating rink, but he never got close to her. "No, I didn't. And you never mentioned it."

"Everyone noticed. You are so clueless Book, that's why you're still single."

"No, it's not. You think Manny gave me the book?"

"I don't know. I said he was my first thought."

"Well, if you recall anything, text me."

Sage didn't think she was clueless. She dated someone in college, knowing instantly his attraction to her. They dated for a few months. She dumped him when he wanted to know her like a husband. So far, no one else.

She considered many situations, like checking it out for a class or it getting mixed up with someone else's book.

Although a stretch, she contacted the library. The librarian told her they kept records dating back 20 years.

Sage gave her the title. She read another poem while on hold. They were simple but sweet.

"You are in luck. The volume checked out May 6, 14 years ago, and marked lost. "

"Can you tell me who checked it out?"

"That information is not available."

"Thanks for your help."

Sage located her High School yearbook on the bookcase in her home office. Familiar faces of her classmates jumped off the glossy pages. She quickly flipped through the colorful images, identifying the persons and locations. Many wonderful memories resurfaced. She turned to the individual photos.

Emmanuel Figaro, a lanky, pimply faced boy who wore his hair cornrowed to the back. However, for this photo, his braids were out. The neat afro touch his shoulders and filled most of the frame.

Her phone dinged. A text from Delta. IT WAS MANNY.

REALLY??? Sage replied.

A contact number followed.

***

The phone rang several times. She was about to cancel when he answered.

"Hello."

"Manny?"

"Who's this?"

"Hi, it's Sage." Something metal crashed to the floor. "Is everything okay?"

"Where did you get my number?"

"Delta."

He groaned.

"Sorry. Did I disturb you?"

"Sort of."

"I'll make it quick. This may sound crazy. I came across a library book among stacks of paperbacks I left at my parents'. No idea where it came from."

"I'm not surprised."

"Did I do something to you?"

"Why are you asking?"

"You sound terse."

"Still using odd words?"

"Manny!"

"My name is Emmanuel."

"So it is." She flung the book onto the coffee table. "Emmanuel, did you give me a library book of poetry?"

Silence.

"Are you there?"

"It's my fault. I was afraid of your intellect and outgoing personality. You were out of my league."

"It was you?"

"The one time we were alone. You were exiting the library, and I was entering. You asked what I was returning." He chuckled. "I almost passed out. But I held it together. Because you never read poetry there being another week on the return, I said try it. You promised to return it, but didn't. We had exams, and graduation. I never saw you again."

"Sorry. "

"My Mom was furious when she found out I had overdue book fees."

"I can pay you back. How much do I owe you?"

"The interest includes dinner."

"Dinner?"

***

Delta helped style her locs in an updo and choose the top to wear with her jeans. Even though, Sage begged, Delta wouldn't reveal what thirty something Manny looked like.

Sage slid her hand in her bag and clutch the book before entering the Restaurant. Emmanuel instructed her to wait at the bar. She scoped out the staff and patrons in the dining area and repeatedly checked her watch, but time slowed like a scene in an action movie.

She sipped the complementary seltzer and ran her finger across the condensation.

Someone brushed past her and sat on the stool beside her.

"Hi Book."

Sage gripped the edge of the bar. If not for studying his photo days ago, the handsome guy would be a stranger.

"Shocking, aren't I?" Emmanuel said.

She nodded.

"The girl with the gift of gab is speechless. Come, our table is ready." He grasped her hand.

Sage's chest stuttered and she couldn't feel her feet touch the floor as he led her to a corner booth. She observed him confidently order drinks and appetizers.

"You look great."

"Thanks." Her voice trembled.

"Am I making you nervous?"

"Yeah!"

"Good. Now you know how it feels."

Her muscles tensed. "Is this dinner your intent to get back at me?"

"No." He placed a hand across his chest. "It's been a long time. I liked you a lot, then I didn't. Thought I was over you until you called. I couldn't sleep thinking about seeing you."

"I don't remember what happened. It wasn't deliberate. I never would cause you or anyone else trouble."

"Can we start over?" He said.

During the meal, they reminisced about the group roller-skating and bowling outings. Emmanuel mentioned the time they were on the same team and the only two who scored perfectly. "You gave me a high-five, I waited until morning to wash the hand."

Shame engulfed her. "I have many memories from those days but–"

"It's okay, those are my memories. I shouldn't expect you to have the same. Maybe we can create new ones."

"I'd like to." Sage withdrew the book and offered it out to him.

"You keep it along with this." He passed her a wrinkled envelope. "I wrote this the night I loaned you the book."

She carefully opened the envelope and lifted out a small sheet of paper with neat handwriting.

I am near her.

But she doesn't see me.

Her words are lively.

But she doesn't talk to me.

I stare at her.

But she doesn't feel me.

Her fragrance intoxicates

But she doesn't come near me.

I love her

But I am Unbeknown to Her

April 30, 2021 21:28

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2 comments

Taylor Viv
23:14 May 19, 2021

This is really good!

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Sharon Marcus
18:46 May 21, 2021

Thank you.

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